Organization works with reservists, guardsmen, their employers to help them understand the law
On a cold Sunday afternoon in December, Ohad Lowy led a presentation for the 385th Transportation Battalion at the Army Reserve Center in Tacoma.
By day Lowy is an attorney, but during his free time he volunteers for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. After his short presentation on the ESGR and how it benefits service members, Lowy was quickly peppered with questions and stories from service members about their own experiences keeping a civilian job while serving their country.
“There are a lot of people who have questions, including the service members,” said Marie Moynahan, ESGR program support specialist.
Moynahan works out of the Camp Murray office. She has been with the organization since 2009.
The organization partners with employers who have hired or plan to hire guardsmen and reservists as well as provide assistance for service members.
The guardsmen and reservists often balance their time between serving and working civilian jobs. The ESGR ensures these men and women can concentrate on their service and not worry about losing their civilian jobs.
“We have employees call us all the time and ask ‘Can they do this? Can they do that?’” Moynahan said. “Because of the op-tempo and all the requirements now on guard and reserves, (service members) are gone a lot more than usual.”
The ESGR is a Department of Defense office with networks in every state. It is supported by more than 4,600 volunteers across the country — including the District of Columbia, Guam-Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Moynahan wasn’t a total novice when she took the job seven years ago, as she had already spent more than 20 years serving in the Washington Army National Guard.
“When I first started, I didn’t know that I had rights,” she said. “We have these resources and we need to let everyone know what they’re about and how we can help.”
The ESGR was designed to promote cooperation and understanding between reserve component service members and their civilian employers. It has been operating for more than 40 years. The organization works to enforce the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. This is the law that establishes rights and responsibilities for uniformed service members and their civilian employers.
Moynahan said often times service members aren’t fully aware of what the law entails.
“Typically, they don’t know what their rights are — especially the younger and junior enlisted,” she said. “So we help to educate them as well as the employers.”
The ESGR does a great deal of employer outreach in order to reach companies. Events are hosted each year, both locally and nationally, to link the employer and the service member. According to the ESGR website, events include: educational events, Bosslifts, statement of support signings, trade shows, job fairs and award presentations.
“Everybody likes a pat on the back from time to time,” Mohnahan said. “Our volunteers coordinate these presentations. They make a big deal out of it because we really want to empower the employers to continue to support the guard and reserve service members.”
To help educate service members and employers, the ESGR relies heavily on its volunteer base. The groups volunteers vary from veterans, military retirees, business owners and the general public.
“Some are people who have never served, but would like to be a part of the military and help serve in their own way,” Moynahan said.
For more information, call the Camp Murray ESGR office at 253-512-8253 or visit esgr.mil.